In a time of global political chaos, surging domestic culture wars, and the baffling emergence of enough GOP presidential candidates to effectively recast every Wes Anderson film ever made, there is one enduring, rock-solid truth we all can count on: If you live in America, you cannot escape Taylor Swift.
Last fall, Swift released her first pop album, “1989,” and the leading single, “Shake It Off,” wormed its way into the brains of countless Americans, nesting there for at least two solid months. During that time, in fact, in the relentless soundtrack of my mind, “Shake It Off” was only occasionally interrupted by the theme song from Thomas the Tank Engine—“THEY’RE TWO, THEY’RE FOUR, THEY’RE SIX, THEY’RE EIGHT!”—which is so engrained in my household that my two-year-old instinctively chants it, straight-faced, whenever we’re supposed to be singing the doxology in church.
In November, “Saturday Night Live” ran a skit advertising a fictional drug called “Swiftamine,” perfectly capturing the Taylor Swift cultural juggernaut. “Over the past month,” a stone-faced fake neurologist named Dr. David Doctor tells the camera, after a montage of various grown-ups keeling over upon discovering who sang their new favorite song, “realizing you love Taylor Swift has been the leading cause of vertigo among adults.”
My Conflicted Love for Taylor Swift
Indeed. I, too, kind of love Taylor Swift—and as such, it was sad to see her sidling up to the dark side of third-wave feminism last week. “Feminism,” Swift told Maxim magazine, after being ranked the hottest hot lady in the magazine’s “Hot 100” list, “is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s basically another word for equality.”
Sigh. No, scratch that, and replace it with the sighs of 1,000 ages, stored airtight in an Indiana-Jones style Ark of the Covenant, suddenly released to swirl all around and melt everyone’s faces off, but then becoming too depressed to actually do the job. Here’s the sad news: Feminism, at least the modern, third-wave brand, is no longer about equality. If one were a hopeful, naïve sort, one might think Swift was just making a standard, commonsensical remark about men and women sharing equal opportunities. Alas, if you read on, it appears she is not.
Witness the further ponderings of a woman who has earned, to date, an estimated $250 million in music and endorsements alone, not just by being talented—she is—but also by curating an ethos that is girlier than a Hello Kitty factory with a roof constructed entirely out of cupcakes: “Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born.” Wait. What? Then there’s this, from one of the most successful individuals in music today: “I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman.” Sheesh, Taylor. Held back from what? Holding a concert on the moon? Levitating the Bellagio Las Vegas with your bare hands? Not getting a slot in those GOP presidential debates? (Note: There’s still time!)
Blame Lena Dunham
This, alas, is modern feminism, an odd mish-mash of out-of-touch victimhood, “empowered” whining, and occasional doses of off-the-reservation crazy. It’s a brand of feminism that tends to ignore the real instances of oppression around the world. It’s a brand of feminism widely embraced by the news media, thong-clad pop stars like Beyonce, and—surprise, surprise—Swift’s good friend, Lena Dunham, a young HBO star/high-profile pretend victim/painful memoir writer/abortion fanatic/half-baked leftist/Oberlin caricature. Dunham, in short, is like a big, flimsy cardboard box full of squeaky bad ideas, each repeatedly scrambling, with tiny T-Rex arms, to be the first to make it out of her mouth.
Tellingly, and perhaps appropriately, Dunham is also widely considered to be a modern feminist icon. “Becoming friends with Lena – without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for – has made me realize that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so,” Swift told The Guardian in August. Dunham even makes a guest appearance in Swift’s latest video, “Bad Blood,” which features an impressive cadre of highly-paid singers, actresses, and supermodels gleefully tromping around in tall boots, whipping around nunchuks, and generally ruling the world. All, quite obviously, are terribly oppressed by western society.
“Well, whatever,” you may be thinking. “This is all well and good and slightly deranged, but seriously, who cares?” Actually, everyone should care, because a) Swift is a huge role model for countless young American women and b) modern feminism is one of the most destructive, pervasive cultural trends harming those young women today.
Empowered Women Aren’t Victims
Don’t believe me? Today’s feminism tells women, over and over again, that they are victims: Victims of “society,” victims of “gender roles,” victims of a “wage gap,” victims of an “epidemic” of sexual assault, victims of catcalls, victims of “triggering” material in college classes. It does not matter if you are sitting on top of the world, like, say, Taylor Swift: There is always victimhood to embrace if you look hard enough. This victimhood is crafted, massaged, and relentlessly sold. It is the raw fuel that powers the careers of many feminist writers and scholars: If there were a shortage of amped-up victimhood, after all, they’d be right out of business.
Even worse, today’s feminists don’t really seem to care about women beyond their usefulness as a political trope. On one hand, feminists relentlessly hype erroneous sexual assault statistics, sounding the alarm about an “epidemic” of campus rape; on the other, they enable women who drink until the point of dangerous incapacitation, applaud women who refuse to press charges when they’ve supposedly been “assaulted,” and cheer on women who, like the University of Virginia’s infamous “Jackie,” outright lie about sexual assault.
How does this help real women, let alone real victims of sexual assault? How does it help the women around the world who are victims of actual oppression? As we like to say on the Internets: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Ah, well. No one ever looked to feminists for their practicality. As for Swift, we shouldn’t give up hope. She’s still young, with plenty of time to pull the nose up on this particularly disastrous flight from reason. Just don’t let Lena do the piloting, sister, and you’ll probably be okay.